The Ravens have discussed their pregame plans for Sunday's AFC North tilt with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but will not reveal whether they intend to kneel, sit down or raise a fist during the playing of the national anthem before the 1 p.m. kickoff at M&T Bank Stadium.
"We've talked," strong safety Eric Weddle said before Wednesday's practice. "It's between us as players and this organization, and I'll leave it at that. I'm not going to sit up here every day and every week talking about what guys are going to do or what we're not going to do. That's the last thing I want to talk about because ultimately, I have a job to do and that's to play my best and have this team ready to play on Sundays, and if guys choose to do certain things, then they can answer that. But we've talked. This is the tightest group that we've had as a team, and no one will turn their backs on each other. So regardless of what we decide or what we talk about, it's between us."
Similarly, coach John Harbaugh declined to shed much light on the team's intentions.
"Guys have conversations about that," he said. "Again, the focus is on the game, and what we talk about in our family inside is something that stays there."
Middle linebacker C.J. Mosley offered perhaps the most detailed explanation, describing the plan as "more of a team approach."
"We talked about it as leadership, we talked about it as a team, as everybody together, so we want to have some kind of plan as a team to move forward," he said. "The main focus – and Coach said it, too – at the end of the day, we're here for football. One of our four fights is to not let the outside stuff distract us from what we need to do. This week, we're focused on the Steelers. We plan on having something as a team, so it won't be something that's dragged on every week in, week out to talk about."
The controversy surrounding NFL players' protests have intensified since President Donald Trump denounced players Friday night for not standing during the national anthem. During that same speech in Alabama, Trump used the term "son of a bitch" to refer to players who kneel and called on owners of NFL teams to fire players who protest during the national anthem.
Weddle said Trump's comments stunned several of his teammates.
"A lot of guys on this team were affected a great deal by what our president said – emotionally," Weddle said. "For a guy on this team that loves my teammates, it was hard to see. Some guys were obviously affected, but a lot of guys were, it wasn't a good sight to see. So we've talked. We've had meetings. It's been amazing to hear everyone's point of view and hear their experiences and just to air it out because you've got to remember that we didn't hear the news of everything until [it was] late. So we were caught off-guard. It was just a bad everything."
In the first display of players' discontentment with Trump's remarks, approximately a dozen Ravens players kneeled during "The Star-Spangled Banner" before their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Sunday morning. Former Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis, an honorary captain, also took a knee between Mosley and wide receiver Mike Wallace.
While it marked the first time any Ravens player had participated in any form of protest during the anthem, the demonstration angered fans who threatened to trash their team apparel, boycott games and end their season-ticket plans.
Asked what he would say to people critical of the players' actions, quarterback Joe Flacco said he did not know how he would articulate his thoughts.
"But I have a relationship with everybody in that locker room, and I know that nobody is trying to offend anybody and pick sides," Flacco said. "Nobody is trying to pick sides. We're trying to stand by each other as brothers. Obviously, there's a big-time African-American influence in the NFL, and those guys want to show support for their communities. It doesn't mean that they're picking sides. It just means that they're showing support for their communities just like any of us would. Our message is to stand by everybody on the team in unity and respect each other."
On Wednesday afternoon, Trump referenced the NFL for the sixth consecutive day, arguing that "the NFL has to change" or "their business is going to go to hell."
While emphasizing that there are injustices in the United States and around the world and that the Ravens organization has great respect for the military, Harbaugh said he, his coaches and players are concentrating on defeating the Steelers to seize control of the AFC North.
"We're getting ready for this game," Harbaugh said. "We had a morning full of meetings on the opponent we're going to play, the Pittsburgh Steelers who we respect. We're getting ready for a football game, and that's what we do and that's all we can do. The other issues are bigger than that. They're beyond our ability to address that and deal with that. We can focus on the task at hand, and that's our responsibility, that's our job and that's what we're required to do."